Weak Markets, Strong Teachers: Recession at Career Start and Teacher Effectiveness

Markus Nagler, Marc Piopiunik, Martin R. West

NBER Working Paper No. 21393
Issued in July 2015, Revised in April 2017
NBER Program(s):CH, ED, LS, PE

How do alternative job opportunities affect teacher quality? We provide causal evidence on this question by exploiting business cycle conditions at career start as a source of exogenous variation in the outside options of potential teachers. Unlike prior research, we directly assess teacher quality with value-added measures of impacts on student test scores, using administrative data on 33,000 teachers in Florida public schools. Consistent with a Roy model of occupational choice, teachers entering the profession during recessions are significantly more effective in raising student test scores. Results are supported by placebo tests and not driven by differential attrition.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21393

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